[The book A Lebanese Archive by Ania Dabrowska, from the collection of Diab Alkarssifi, was published by Book Works and Arab Image Foundation, 2015.]
Om Ashad, (Ashad’s Mother)
Slefa Village, Lebanon, 1984
1984 was a bloody year in Lebanon, with heavy fighting in Beirut. Bekaa valley was under the control of the Syrian army, but despite this and despite the war it was not affected by the fighting. Life went on as normal. We were on a trip to the waterfalls in Yammouneh, near Baalbeck. The woman in the pictures, Om Ashad, was like a ‘mother of all the boys’. Her son Ashad is a doctor today. (…) Usually we would go to this area because it has a river and a waterfall. (…) I took most of the pictures spontaneously, without thinking, and then later, I see the beauty of the photograph. I don’t like to reminisce about these days because they were too beautiful.
The story is shot in what appears to be Diab’s typical manner: a lot of frames are over or underexposed, carelessly framed, out of focus, but thenthere are two or three images that jump out and linger. The beautiful Om Ashad is one of my favourite women in the collection. In this case, everything leads to her dancing sequence, which would not be as perfect as it is without ‘the other frames’ around it. Those shots are like the archive’s subconscious, where the unspoken ideas, thoughts and feelings reside, whilst the perfect frames are like clear thoughts amidst confusion, a breath of air to a drowning man, the calm in the middle of a storm.
Text from Ania Dabrowska’s interview with Diab Alkarssifi, ‘Conversations About Archives’, The Creative SPACE Programme, from Artist’s SPACE / Arlington Residency Journal, 24 May 2011 and from a Kickstarter campaign film (Diab’s voice), 2014; photographs by Diab Alkarssifi